STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
There has never been a major event in Philadelphia dedicated to the city’s signature sandwich.
“I’m from New York, and I see the Nathan’s (hot dog eating contest) event on the Fourth of July every year,” said Kevin Baxter, an events promoter at a company in Roxborough and co-creator of the first annual Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival.
So why had no one, until now, organized a celebration of something as traditionally Philly as Benjamin Franklin, the Liberty Bell, “Rocky” and Independence Hall?
Want to know something else? According to Baxter, the record for world’s largest cheesesteak was set in Arizona, of all places. “We’re going to attempt to break that record,” he stated.
So you should be motivated to go to the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival, being held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24 at Lincoln Financial Field, as an act of civic pride.
At first glance, you could make a whole day of it with the family. Besides an attempt to build a 450-foot “Visit Philadelphia World’s Largest Cheesesteak, Built by Steve’s Steaks and Amoroso’s,” attractions include:
•Cheesesteak samples (a roughly-two-bite 1.5-inch slice) from more than 40 vendors, and a cheesesteak cook-off.
•Beer outlets and food vendors with non-cheesesteak items, and even gluten-free and vegetarian options.
•A competitive cheesesteak eating contest.
•An appearance by Phillies legend Darren Daulton.
•Performances by the bands Go Go Gadjet, StellarMojo and Blackthorn, as well as The Philadelphia Mummers. And since you are at the Linc, The Philadelphia Eagles Pep Band will break into “Fly Eagles Fly” at 3 p.m.
•Appearances by Swoop and the festival’s mascot “Cheesy.”
•A cornhole tournament.
•Mechanical bull rides.
•Appearances by radio stations 97.5 The Fanatic, 93.3 WMMR, 102.9 WMGK, and 95.7 Ben FM.
Legend has it that the iconic steak sandwich was invented in 1930 by Pat Olivieri, the co-founder of Pat’s King of Steaks on Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia, which over the years has become a tourist destination. Pat’s will be there, and so will Geno’s, Tony Luke’s, Philip’s, Joe’s (formerly Chink’s), Shank’s Original, and Donkey’s.
“We all wanted to put them under one roof, and we also wanted to give the little guys a chance,” said Baxter, who predicted more than 15,000 people would show up at the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium.
Also competing for bragging rights will be Oregon Steaks, Chubby’s Steaks, Vince’s Cheesesteaks, Wit or Witout (a reference to cheese/Cheese Whiz ordering preference), Original Philly Cheesesteak, Jay’s Steaks and Hoagie Joint, Delco’s Original Steaks and Hoagies, Cheesesteakissimo, Bradley’s Cheesesteaks and more.
With so many purveyors of cheesesteak goodness out there, is there really that much of a difference from one restaurant to another? It depends on your personal taste, Baxter said, noting that how fine the steak is chopped, the qualities of the meat, or what brand of roll they use are what makes people say, for example, “Dalessandro’s is best” or “Geno’s is best.”
And wait until you see the various takes on steaks, such as cheesesteak egg rolls, dumplings, soup and pierogies.
Baxter said that $1 of every ticket sold will go to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to fight pediatric cancer.
IF YOU GO
What: First annual Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way, Philadelphia.
Tickets: $40 for “Wit” admission that includes 10 samples and a T-shirt, $20 for general admission (You can still get samples with these “Wit Out” tickets for $2 per voucher), $10 for children 6-12 (does not include samples), free to children 5 and under. Parking will be free in the Lincoln Financial Field lots.
Info.: Go to www.cheesesteakfest.com and www.facebook.com/events/286090098227859.